2

April

What Do Packers Injuries and Winning Have In Common? Packing the Stats…

Packing the StatsA lot has been made about the Packers misfortune when it comes to injuries; injuries was the major hurdle that the Packers overcame to get to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl in 2010 and injuries again were the major obstacle in 2013 with Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga all missing significant time due to their respective injuries.

I have always argued that the nature of injuries is in large part random; football is a vicious sport and there are so many different ways to get injured that are largely out of the control of the player, the coaching staff or the front office.  Not many would argue that the tackle that Nick Collins ended his career was unusual nor was the hit that Jermichael Finley took against Cleveland anything out of the norm.  Rodgers breaking his clavicle and Matthews breaking his thumb all occurred on mundane plays that both players have been involved in countless times before in their careers.

In 2013 alone, I would argue that the only two injuries likely could have been avoided were Brandon Merriweather spearing Eddie Lacy and maybe Randall Cobb breaking his leg against Baltimore (but in the defense of Matt Elam, going low is now encouraged to defenders with so many fines being levied to helmet to helmet contact).

Data 1

However, it’s pretty undeniable that the Packers as a franchise have either had consistent terrible luck or something else is at play.  The Packers have had one of the worst strings of injuries over the last 4 years and it’s 99.9% significant compared to the rest of the league.  Fingers have been pointed at pretty much every remote possibility; plenty have blamed Ted Thompson and the front office for drafting players who are injury prone (i.e. Justin Harrell), some have blamed the coaching staff for not teaching proper form while others have blamed the strength and conditioning coaches (there was some ridiculous rumor that floated around that the 49ers had a secret stretching routine that made them impervious to injuries; keep in mind free agency does happen and more importantly players stretch out on the field for everyone to see).

19

October

Packers are Really Good, but not Dominant…For Now

The Packers inability to bury a team like the Saints is one reason Green Bay isn't quite dominant.

The Green Bay Packers are 6-0 and should be 7-0 after feasting on Christian Ponder and the bumbling Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The Packers have been the more talented team on the field for each of their games this season, sometimes by a wide margin. But despite the Packers fast start and obvious talent superiority, I wouldn’t call this team dominant….yet.

Extremely good? Yes. Ultra-talented? Yes. The best team in the NFL? Yes. Dominant? Not quite.

Here’s why:

  • The Packers are 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Opposing QBs have racked up 1,798 passing yards on Green Bay, an average of almost 300 yards per game. Passing numbers are up around the league, but this number needs to come down for the Packers to be dominant.
  • The Packers are third in Football Outsiders DVOA ratings and Pro-Football-Reference.com’s simple ratings system. I don’t put too much stock in this type of analysis this early in the season, but these numbers do tell us that the Packers are not miles ahead of everyone else like a dominant team would be.
  • A dominant team would have put away the Saints and the Panthers (and probably the Bears) much earlier than the Packers did. Instead of putting these games out of reach, the Packers let both teams hang around. A dominant team also would not have been shut out by the Rams in the second half, even if that dominant team was bored like the Packers probably were on Sunday.
  • The Packers schedule hasn’t exactly been mind-blowing. Strength of schedule is something the Packers can’t control, but it at least needs to be mentioned in this discussion. Wins over the Panthers, Rams, Broncos and (probably) Vikings aren’t going to make many people turn their heads and say “Whoa, that team sure is unstoppable.”

No, the Packers shouldn’t be labeled dominant right now, but there’s a lot of season left. They have the best QB in the NFL and have outscored opponents by 83 points. Their turnover differential is plus-8 and it wouldn’t surprise me if their defense improves as Tramon Williams gets healthier, Sam Shields returns to last season’s form and Dom Capers continues adjusting to life without Nick Collins.

13

January

Packing the Stats: Packers Tight Ends Forgotten with Finley Gone

In each of the past three games, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense have done something they have only done once since Week 5: thrown a touchdown pass to a tight end. Donald Lee accounts for two of those touchdowns, and we just saw Tom Crabtree score his first NFL touchdown in Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

All of the touchdown passes came from near the goal line, and both of the scoring tight ends had fewer than 10 total yards of production in each game.

After the final regulation game against the Chicago Bears, frequent commenter “Ron LC” made an interesting note about Mike McCarthy’s use of the tight end this season. He wrote: “Lee’s TD last week has identified an area where MM seems to have given up. The TE as a key player in getting the 1st down and controlling the ball.”

In response to this, I decided to do some research to see if it was an accurate assessment. What I found was interesting, but not totally surprising.

The following chart and graphs present the data I uncovered (click on the chart for full resolution):

KEY

TARG% = TE Targets / Total Pass Attempts
YDS% = TE Yards / Total Pass Yards

TD% = TE Touchdowns / Total Passing Touchdowns
First Down TE% = TE First Downs / Passing First Downs


LOSING FINLEY HURT PRODUCTION . . .

Without even realizing it, I made one big assumption before even starting to collect the data: the injury to Jermichael Finley in Week 5 against the Washington Redskins was responsible for the decrease in production from the tight ends.

And I was right.

If you will notice in the chart, I separated the data into three sections. The first section encompasses the four weeks in which Finley was healthy and active. Though limited in sample size, this gives us a baseline to work with when analyzing the rest of the season.

The second section is only one game – the one in which Finley was injured. I separated this from the others, because I felt it was unique to the situation. Finley practically didn’t play at all in that game, since he was injured early and was never targeted. But Mike McCarthy had still made the game plans with him in mind, which means he still intended to utilize the tight end a significant amount. In fact, rookie Andrew Quarless pretty much replaced Finley in that game, as he accounted for 4 receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.

10

December

Packing the Stats: Green Bay’s Scoring Stats and Slow Starts

In their Week 13 game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers were clearly favored to win the match-up. Not only were they playing at Lambeau Field (the first time since playing the Dallas Cowboys before the bye week), they were also facing a team whose mere four wins came against opponents currently boasting no better than a .500 record.

Perhaps that’s the reason, then, why fans were a bit frustrated after the first quarter of play.

Here were the Green Bay Packers – an offensive powerhouse and a defensive machine – down by two fields goals and with zero points to show for their efforts against the 49ers?

“Mike McCarthy’s teams always start slow,” you might hear some fans say. “Just wait. There’s a lot of game left.”

And most people would probably agree with this sentiment pretty readily. The Green Bay Packers have tended to start slow in their games before piling on the points in ensuing quarters. As fans, we’ve taken their first quarter play with a grain of salt. We don’t like it, but we’re willing to wait it out and see what the next 45 minutes of game time brings.

That got me to thinking, though. Do the Packers really start slow? And how do their games usually progress across the four quarters?

In order to answer these questions, I went digging through some basic statistics to see if I could find any trends in the data. Take a look at the following table and graph, and see if you noticed the same things I did:

1ST
QUARTER
2ND
QUARTER
3RD
QUARTER
4TH
QUARTER
TOTAL
SCORE
OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP
1 @PHI 0 3 13 0 14 7 0 10 27 20 W
2 BUF 13 0 0 7 14 0 7 0 34 7 W
3 @CHI 7 0 3 7 0 0 7 13 17 20 L
4 DET 7 0 14 14 7 6 0 6 28 26 W
5 @WAS 7 0 3 3 3 0 0 10 13 16 L
6 MIA 10 7 0 3 0 3 10 7 20 23 L
7 MIN 7 7 7 10 14 7 0 0 28 24 W
8 @NYJ 3 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 9 0 W
9 DAL 0 0 28 7 7 0 10 0 45 7 W
10 @MIN 0 3 17 0 7 0 7 0 31 3 W
11 @ATL 3 3 0 7 7 0 7 10 17 20 L
12 SF 0 3 14 10 14 3 6 0 34 16 W
TOTAL: 57 26 99 68 87 26 60 56 303 182
AVG: 4.8 2.2 8.3 5.7 7.3 2.2 5.0 4.7 25.3 15.2
DIFF: 31 31 61 4 121
AVG DIFF: 2.6 2.6 5.1 0.3 10.1

17

November

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Trending in the Right Direction

Welcome to the first edition of the “Packers Beer Mug,” where I will take a look at a particular aspect of the Green Bay Packers from two different angles, then determine whether to ultimately view the mug as half full or half empty.

This week’s question:

Is the Green Bay Packers’ current winning streak a trend that will continue through the final seven games?

The Green Bay Packers and their fans have been on a wild roller coaster ride ever since training camp. After displaying some offensive and defensive muscle during preseason, the Packers had two respectable wins at Philadelphia and against Buffalo.

But then came the first division game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and suddenly the team was looking eerily similar to its 2009 unit.

They gave up crucial plays on Special Teams and drew a record eighteen penalties. Add to the mix a narrow victory against the Detroit Lions, plus two overtime losses to the average-at-best Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, and the season’s outlook became quite dull.

Fans started becoming skeptical of what their team was really made of, and if they could overcome the rash of injuries.

Jump to the present, and all of sudden the Green Bay Packers are riding a three game winning streak that began with a tough but crucial victory against the rival Minnesota Vikings and followed with a strong defensive win against the New York Jets. Now maybe the 2010 Packers really are following a similar road as last year’s team, who won five straight games after a 4-4 start.

Will the trend continue, though? Have the Green Bay Packers truly turned their season around?

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

Let’s look at a few statistics:

Wks. 1-3 Wks. 4-6 Wks. 7-9 2010 Total
Penalties per Game 8.7 6.3 2.3 5.8 (T-8th)
Pen. Yds. Per Game 72.0 46.3 18.3 45.6 (6th)
Def. Sacks per Game 4.1 2.7 2.3 3.1 (T-1st)
Off. Sacks per Game 1 3.7 1 1.9 (T-11th)
T/O Margin +0 -2 +8 +6 (T-4th)
Opp. Pts. Per Game 15.7 21.7 10.3 15.9 (1st)
Scoring Margin +10.3 -1.4 +17.0 +8.7 (1st)
Opp. Record 13-14 11-16 12-15 36-45
11

June

Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #4 – Penalties

In this fourth installment of “Studying the Stats”, I’ll be taking a look at the Green Bay Packers’ penalty woes and how they may have affected results.

First, the cold hard stats:
Packers Penalties:

2009    118 (1)        1057yds.(2)
2008    110 (2)         984yds. (1)
2007    113 (4)        1006yds. (2)

Penalty Rankings for Super Bowl teams:

2009 NO (20)      Indpls (31)
2008 Pitt (12)      Arizona (5)
2007 NE (25)     NYG (26)
2006 Chi (5)    Indpls (26)
2005 Pitt (25)    Seat (30)

The numbers in parehtheses are team rankings in penalties with respect to the rest of the NFL teams. As you can see, the Packers have been top shelf producers in the dubious category of most-penalized NFL teams. Looking at the last five Super Bowl contestants, you can see that 80% of the time, the teams were not heavily penalized teams.

More important than just committing penalties is when you commit them. Looking at the Packers’ stats in this department, there are some real eye-openers in there.

Special teams penalties were a big problem for the Packers in 2009. 30 special team penalties were committed overall, with 14 being holding penalties, a very high percentage. 17 of 30 penalties were on Packers returns, resulting in a field position loss of 215 yards and Jordy Nelson’s 99 yard kickoff return for a TD.

The Packers’ offense was penalized 18 times after an offensive gain, wiping out 186 yards gained in the process. Thirteen of those penalties nullified first downs and still another nullified a touchdown. 78% of these penalties cost the Packers a first down or TD! Wow!

On the defensive side, the Packers were called for 9 defensive interference penalties, resulting in 150 yards to the opposition. But more amazing is the fact that ALL 9 interference penalties came on 3rd or 4th down and gave the other team a first down, keeping their drive alive. Watching the games as a fan last year, I often found myself lamenting that it seemed like every interference penalty resulted in keeping a drive alive. I had no idea it was actually 100% absolutely true!  Incredible!

8

June

Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #3 – Field Position

In this third installment of “Studying the Stats”, I’ll be taking a look at how the Green Bay Packers average starting offensive field position came about and how it affected results.

Click here for…

Part 1 – Interceptions

Part 2 – Fast Starts

On average, the Packers starting offensive field position in 2009 was their own 32 yard line. That sounds pretty decent if you’re just thinking possessions off of kickoffs. But included in the mix is offensive possessions off of punts, defensive interceptions and fumble recoveries, missed field goals, blocked kicks and 4-down defensive stops.

In 2009, the Packers’ defense finished second in the league in average yards per game given up. So we can’t point the field position finger at the defensive unit.  Other than how much yardage your defense relinquishes, the next biggest factor in determining your average offensive starting field position is your specials teams return game. Jordy Nelson did an average job with kickoff returns, finishing 17th in the NFL among kickoff returners with at least 10 chances (an average of 25.4 yards per return).

Punt returns, unfortunately, were a whole different ballgame. Nelson was a putrid 36th in the NFL among punt returners with 10 chances or more, with an average of 5.3 yards per return. That’s called a field position nightmare. When Tramon Williams was given a chance at punt returns, he doubled Nelson’s average. But with the Packers’ secondary injuries, Williams became too valuable to risk getting hurt on punt returns, so Nelson took the bulk of the snaps.

Of course, it’s not fair to just blame Jordy Nelson. He was only there because of the injury to Will Blackmon, and there are 10 other players on the field who have to do their jobs, as well. Regardless, the Packers will be thrilled to have Blackmon back returning punts, and that’s a big reason I feel they are moving him to safety, where it will be easier for him to make the team (Probably as Nick Collin’s backup and as an all-purpose DB in the various passing D packages).

The Packers are expected to be looking at a variety of players to return kickoffs, including Blackmon, Sam Shields, James Starks and even Nelson, again.

I’ve previously dealt with the Packers’ punting game disaster, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say that where you give the other team the ball can eventually effect where you get it back.